Color Management Changes in Photoshop CS2
Right about the time that regular users have gotten used the changes Adobe made in one release of Photoshop, the company turns around and puts out another new version. With the unveiling of Photoshop CS2 recently, it's time to begin that process once again. As a photographer who is concerned about getting the best results I can, it seems like a good idea to spend some time looking into the changes CS2 brings in the area of color management.
The place to start is where everyone should always start with color management in Photoshop: the Color Settings dialog. Thankfully, nothing much has changed here. The "Advanced" mode has been replaced by a "More/Fewer Options" button, but other than that you should feel right at home.
The process of Converting and Assigning color profiles hasn't really changed either, but it has been moved over to the bottom of the Edit menu instead of being underneath Image >> Mode. The shorter route to get to these should save a mouse click I suppose. Right now though I'm still clicking on Image >> Mode out of habit, then going over to the Edit menu once I realize what I've done so I've still a couple of keystrokes in the hole. Once I get used to things, the new location is an improvement and groups Convert and Assign together with the reasonably related Color Settings command.
Soft proofing is still located under View >> Proof Setup >> Custom.... as it was in previous releases of Photoshop. Apart from a few terminology changes, it still works the same as it has since Adobe added soft proofing back in Photoshop 6. The changes that were made are all along the lines of adding words to better explaining what the various choices do rather than being actual changes to capability. Most folks probably won't have any trouble adapting to the increase in verbosity.
Once Adobe got started with the wording changes in Proof Setup, I guess they couldn't help themselves since you find a whole lot more in Print with Preview. Indeed, the change changes here might at first seem so radical that you'll be tempted to think they've actually changed something fundamental but the feature changes themselves are actually quite minor.
I've included a screen print of the new Print with Preview dialog further down for your reference. Let's start at the top of the Color Management section. The Source Space selection has been replaced by a Print choice, still offering a choice between "Document" and "Proof." The change seems reasonable since what you are telling Photoshop here is what you intend to print.
Print Space also has been replaced, this time by an Options section to the dialog. Tops on the list of Options is the Color Handling choice, the addition of which seems to be a key design change that will probably help out new users a lot when trying to make sense of printing with profiles. Acting somewhat as a master control option, it gives you choices between "No Color Management," "Let Printer Determine Colors" and "Let Photoshop Determine Colors." An additional option for printing color separations in CMYK mode is also present, but we won't go into that here since all desktop printers are RGB devices. Based on your choice here, only those other choices that are relevant will be available, with the remainder grayed out — a nice touch. If you print without the use of soft proofing (Print option set to "Document"), you can choose "Let Photoshop Determine Colors" and proceed to select your printer profile and rendering intent. The next choice of "Let Printer Determine Colors" isn't recommended since it takes the control out of Photoshop's hands and forces you to rely on the idiosyncrasies of your particular printer driver. If, on the other hand you prefer printing based on soft proofing, you have to select "No Color Management" here after choosing "Proof" under the Print section. This is equivalent to setting Source Space to "Proof Setup" and Print Space to "Same as Source" in previous versions of Photoshop. As long as Adobe was at it with their attempts to clarify and simplify the printing process, I would have much preferred it if they had made this option say "Print Using Proof Settings," or at least "No Additional Color Management" when Print was set to "Proof." But I'm being picky here since this is still easier to understand for newcomers that was the wording previously used.
Underneath this is a drop-down selection to allow you to select options previously chosen in View >> Proof Setup. Only available if you have chosen "Proof" for what you want to print, this should be set to "Current Custom Setup" if you have chosen "No Color Management" under Color Handling to print based on your soft proofing choices.
Adobe has added options for "Simulate Paper Color" and "Simulate Black Ink" near the bottom of the Options section. These are the same as the "Simulate Paper White" and "Ink Black" checkboxes in soft proofing and allow you to simulate these characteristics in the preview image here, a convenient addition for those who don't use soft proofing but of no real use here if you do.
At the bottom of the Options section is a text area used for various reminders and descriptions relevant to whatever your mouse is hovering over. Personally, I think some of their descriptions could have been better worded, but these do go along way towards guiding the novice though the printing process.
Let's now recap how to set all of these for printing with soft proofing, the method that I consider to be the best way to print. Obviously, you'll need to start by selecting "Proof" for what you want to print from. Then, under Options, you'll need to select "No Color Management" under Color Handling. This will cause both Printer Profile and Rendering Intent here to be grayed out since you have already made the needed choices under soft proofing. Finally, for Proof Setup Preset, select "Current Custom Setup" which should be the default.
Most of the changes Adobe made I view as welcome ones. Color management has always been more complicated than it has any right to be. I think Adobe have done a lot to simplify the printing process in Photoshop CS2, although I still have a small beef with how soft proofing is integrated into things as mentioned above. There will be at least some confusion among Photoshop users since every book written for prior versions has effectively been rendered out-of-date with regard to printing. Hopefully, this week's Phototip article will at help set the record straight at least in some small measure.